Friday, July 24, 2020


With Covid restrictions in place, many of us have been finding pleasure in touring our own areas in stay-cations, or just getting out for walks and drives to new or favourite places. I'm one of those, and these day trips have led to lots of discoveries. Many of these involve historic spots, and I've found myself reading up on New Brunswick history a few times. I'll admit, and I'm sure I'm not alone, to a woefully limited knowledge of our past.

Fredericton musician Mike Bravener has been helping people learn our history as a musician at King's Landing, the historic village that recreates 19th century New Brunswick. To take on the role, Bravener researched the traditional folk songs unique to the area. He used the scarce few resources in print, and even learned a couple handed down through generations of local families.

These are the songs of English New Brunswick, and the bulk of them Miramichi folk songs, celebrating that area and its rich logging history. Best known is "The Lumberman's Alphabet" ("A's for the axes..."), perhaps the only one a few of us could sing along to. There are history lessons, such as "The Miramichi Fire," the gigantic 1825 conflagration that killed hundreds and destroyed a fifth of the province's forests, regarded as one of the three biggest forest fires ever in North America. Others give the flavour of the times, such as "The Scow On Cowden Shore," which calls out the towns where the workers have come from, and "Peter Emberley" who watches the big ships sail majestically.

Bravener sticks to the traditional arrangements and instruments for the songs, with mostly acoustic guitar, fiddle, accordion and lots of gang vocals. He sings out the lyrics clearly, in the story-telling way these would have first been heard in lumber camps and around campfires. We're lucky in New Brunswick where we can still see remnants of these days in historic sites such as the Fundy Trail or the Woodman's Museum, and a history lesson goes a long way in helping build cultural pride (and the tourism economy) of a region. Kudos to Bravener for his important work.

There's an album launch concert happening at King's Landing on Sunday, Aug. 2 at 5:30 PM.

No comments:

Post a Comment